Tag Archives: made in new york

Garment District Incubators

Now that I’m settled down from Sweden, a story this morning from the Wall Street Journal’s Ralph Gardner Jr. fanned the fire under my buns to get back to my reporting in the Garment District. I’m glad he put designer Bibhu Mohapatra in the lede, or he might have lost me with his paragraph-long flashback of watching supermodels strip backstage in the ’80s. Gardner (who professed being foreign to fashion) said the word incubator made him picture “a climate-controlled box,” and many involved with the CFDA’s glossy-floored corridor of 12 glass-walled studios on 38th Street seem take issue with the name. Even a mailman in the elevator there told me, “it sounds like a place for growing aliens.”

A Bibhu Mohapatra gown at his F/W 2010 show in February

These designers may be, um, growing, but they’re well on their way to being established names in the fashion world. Bibhu has been one of my favorite ones to watch. In the months since reviewing his  Fall 2010 show (pictured above), I’ve spent some time with the designer and his staff, as they moved from their studios uptown to their new space in the Garment District.

The Designer in his former Upper West Side studio, March

At work in the new space, April

As Bibhu and his hall-mates have been settling into their new workspace on 38th Street, I’ve been settling into mine on 40th, which was also referred to as “the incubator,” before being rechristened The Center for Journalistic Innovation. From here, I’ll keep reporting on the Garment District, and amass material for a project to address the garment industry’s relationship with our city. Stay tuned this summer. Both in fashion and in media, it’s going to be an exciting run-up to Fashion Week in September.

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All Laced Up: The Art of Corsetry

I’ve been told I need to get more comfortable in front of a camera, so I went and did one of the less comfortable things one might ever do, with or without the presence of a camera. I got fitted for a corset, for multimedia journalist Perry Santanachote‘s audio slideshow, The Corset Maker.


From Perry:

Angela Friedman manipulates flesh. In a cramped Manhattan studio, she cheerfully toils away at a dying art—one that requires a mastery of intricate and technical elements, like what Friedman coins, “the squish factor.” She currently manages the women’s costume department at the New York City Ballet.

Yep, that’s my “squish factor” they’re talking about. Who’s uncomfortable now?

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Malia Mills NYC Sample Sale

I know it’s hardly swimsuit season, but Malia Mills‘ are the absolute best, and usually quite pricey. Here’s my own favorite, bought for $20 at their sale last summer:

The suits are made in New York City’s Garment Center, right across the hall from the sale. Here’s a little window into Malia’s workspace I shot last year, where she talks about the importance of overseeing her supply chain. For more on Malia and the Garment District, read up here! And find the details for the sale below. 

Malia Mills is hosting the ultimate swimwear separates celebration!

For two days, find favorite styles from seasons past for $20 bucks a piece at our Studio Sale Extravaganza. It’s a new year, and we’ve got “newly vintage” Malia Mills mixers galore!

Tops 30A to 40DD, Bottoms 2 to 16


Add to your swimwear wardrobe and 10% of your purchase will go to The New York Women’s Foundation. http://www.nywf.org/

When? Wednesday, February 24th and Thursday, February 25th

10 am until 6 pm

Where? Malia Mills, 263 West 38th St, Floor 16, between 7th and 8th Avenues

Cash, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard Accepted

It might seem a world away today, but summertime is inevitable.

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Cathy Horyn, Behind the Scenes in the Garment Center

If you’re a regular reader of this site, you may be interested in Cathy Horyn’s most recent blogpost: a New York City pattern-maker’s observations of the changing American garment industry. It’s heartening to see the comments it’s already generating on The Times’ website.

Ari Magallanes Works a J Mendel Dress in his 38th Street Studio, Fall 2009

Those comments show readers are ready look behind the curtain, at what Ms. Horyn calls, “an industry in turmoil, the drastic loss of local factories and suppliers, the manufacturing dominance of China and other countries, the gradual decline of technical expertise in the face of apparent consumer indifference about fit and quality.”

Here’s another glimpse behind the scenes, in case you missed it the first time around, of New York City garmentos in their workplaces. You can also click here to read all the posts pertaining to the the garment district.

I’ll be reporting from the runways next week for Dossier, but I’ll do my best to get behind the scenes too. Maybe consumers aren’t so indifferent after all, they just might need more stories.

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New Kid on the Block: Wool and the Gang

By now you may know, that when it comes to downtown knitting shops, I love Purl. But on my way there the other day (as I mentioned at the end of this post), I found a new nook to love on Thompson Street: Wool and the Gang. There’s no question that Purl is precious: colorful, comfortable, and populated with kindly experts to help with projects. 

Wool and the Gang, on the other hand, feels stark, modern, and a little edgy at first impression…until one remembers that knitters, by nature, are patient people who appreciate color and craft. And if you, in turn, are someone who appreciates color and craft, then you already have something in common. I had a chat with Jade, their British shopkeeper, who you’re likely to meet again here at Closettour, and picked up a ball of Crazy Sexy Wool for a new hat.

I started it last week at a neighborhood knitting bee, where it was my turn to be the new kid on the block. The group is comprised of three other girls: Melissa, plus two more called Jenny, like me. (One Jenny makes pretty clothing by hand, the other muses about the food she eats.) They watch Twin Peaks while they knit, which would be far too creepy for me to watch alone. It’s sort of nice having a little gang.

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The American Garmento: An Endangered Species in its Natural Habitat

If you are a New Yorker, or a regular reader of this website, you may already be aware that New York City’s Garment District is at risk of re-zoning. Maybe you:

You might be wondering what this all really means. What’s at stake? Who works in this Garment Center anyway? (To the layman, the neighborhood may just be home to peep shows, Port Authority, and The New York Times.) Today, I’ll try to give you a run-down of the issue at hand, and share some video-windows I made into a few businesses in the neighborhood.

Since 1987, Manhattan’s Garment District, which falls between 34th and 40th Streets east of 9th Avenue and west of Broadway, has been protected by a zoning regulation that requires landlords to devote a minimum area of their space to manufacturers. Now, after New York City lost 12,500 manufacturing jobs over the last year, local politicians feel the space can be put to better use, and that regulation is under re-negotiation.

Andrew Ward, Executive Director of the Garment Industry Development Corporation, said his organization, which represents the fashion faction, is in discussions with developers, landlords, and union workers about how best to proceed. He wasn’t at liberty to discuss the next steps just yet, but he did note that although only 5% of the clothing Americans buy is made in the USA, 1.3 million square feet of the Garment Center–about 1/6 of the commercially zoned area, are still occupied by manufacturers, wholesalers, suppliers, and designers–that rare breed of New Yorker we affectionately know as garmentos.

As I said in this previous post, when I ran around the Garment District years ago as a design and production assistant, I took the industry’s grittiness, diversity, and camaraderie for granted, as part of New York City. Watching Schmatta helped me put my experience in historic context, but here’s the thing–it’s not just history.

Although according to Wikipedia’s definition, the American garmento is an endangered species, (threatened by changing environmental parameters) they’re still very much alive here in Midtown Manhattan. Here, have a peek into the work-spaces of a belt manufacturer, a bathing suit designer, and a button wholesaler, and let them tell you what the Garment District has meant to them throughout their careers.

Terry Schwartz, 58 years old, Sherry Accessories, 23 years in business. If my landlord wants me out, I’m out of business because I can’t afford to move anymore.

Malia Mills, 43 years old, Malia Mills Swimwear, 18 years in business. The closer your team is, the more you can supervise it. The garment center is absolutely vital to what we do.

Teddy Haft, 54 years old, Buttonology, 5 years in business, a “whole adult life” in buttons. The companies are still here and they do their sourcing here. And then everything gets produced overseas. It’s become very, very difficult.

Andrew Ward couldn’t say what will happen next. The city has scrapped one plan to consolidate the Garment Center’s protected area into a single building, and the negotiations continue.

“It would be a shame if we lost what’s here,” he said. “What’s left.”

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Process and Production

I loved reading Michelle Slatalla’s Wife/Mother/Worker/Spy piece today in The Times, about what she, an impatient writer learned about herself and her creative process from her new sewing machine. 

I just finished a similar experiment, writing a 5,800-word story intertwining the design of J Mendel’s Pre-Fall collection with the act of composing the story. It was a story within a story, about the creative process–a bit of a mind-bender, but so much fun to write. (It was a final project for my Masters, if you’d like to read it, let me know. A 20-page assault on this website doesn’t seem right somehow.)

J. Mendel Pre-Fall 2010

J Mendel, Pre-Fall 2010, from Style.com

Anyway, Slatalla sort of did the same thing in column form today, providing a bit of insight into her process and its little tics via a story about garment (or, in her case, dish towel) production. 

We could take this a step further to compare the collective consciousness of creative types–designers and writers alike, but that might be taking this whole thing a bit far.

Let’s just go back to wondering what to wear.

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